WASHINGTON, D.C.: Congressional correspondent Karen Tumulty reports that the Republican leadership may be ready to negotiate a balanced budget agreement that does not include the tax cuts that have been a chief sticking point during negotiations: "Senate sources say Budget Chairman Pete Domenici is quietly floating the idea of trying to pass two pieces of legislation that would separate the tax cut from the balanced budget. Republicans would first pass a budget plan, and then address tax cuts." While the idea is likely to get a good reception in the Senate, Tumulty notes, it faces steeper opposition in the House from GOP freshmen still intent on achieving the Contract With America goal of a balanced budget combined with tax cuts. Republicans have been pushing for a $200 billion tax cut over seven years. The Clinton Administration has countered with an offer of $130 billion in cuts, while Congressional Democrats and many hard-line deficit hawks say that no cuts should be made until the budget is balanced. House Speaker Newt Gingrich Friday floated a trial balloon on the issue when he said that he would consider a smaller tax cut over a shorter time period. The proposal got a cautiously enthusiastic response from the White House. "The two proposals really suggest that the balanced budget, which looked increasingly unlikely, might not be dead after all," says Tumulty.